Mostly when you write, you struggle, but every now and then you find a character you instantly fall in love with, and for me that character was Rudy Steiner. I loved him from the moment I did research at Sutherland Library, in Sydney, to find football (or soccer) players of the era the book was set in. I wanted Rudy to shout their names in commentary as he scored goals on the muddy ground of Himmel Street.
I saw a book on the Olympics with Jesse Owens on the cover and it hit me. I thought, ‘I don’t need footballers – I’ve got one of the great icons of the 20th century.’ I immediately saw Rudy running the hundred metres with his face charcoaled black, and his father waiting for him at the finish line, exasperated…
All these years later, what can I say about Nico Liersch, the young actor playing Rudy in the film?
He is Rudy.
I hope I don’t embarrass Nico by saying this, but he’s quite simply one of those people you meet and immediately think, “Imagine having a kid like that!” He just makes you feel better for knowing him. The handful of days I was on the set, he would run up to me and say hi, every time he saw me. Not because he felt he should. Not for any other reason than the fact that he does that sort of thing. Like Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s faithful friend on Himmel Street, he’s never less than 100% alive – and he makes you feel the same.